Ten Miles in the Snow… Uphill… Both Ways…Barefoot.


No photos, no extras. Just my hot air.

This is bound to be one of those “back when I was a kid” rants, and it’s bound to offend someone. I admit, it’s a rant. And, I fully accept that to younger readers it could be construed as one of those lectures, where it seems I’m saying things were better way back when… That we were better, that you are worse. It may seem like I’m remembering through the veil of age and potentially distorted memories. I’ll give you youngins’ that point. That’s not the case. I accept that some things are better now, and that we did things that were not perfect either. The rest however is up for debate. So, if you finish this post and have some thoughts, log in and share them on the WordPress site or the Tales from the Motherland Facebook page. I’d be really interested to hear what others have to say. Surely I’ll ruffle some feathers, but it’s my dime.  You can comment for free.

Today I stopped by the high school to drop something off for my son. Don’t get me started on the fact that my mother never dropped things off for me. If I forgot them, I dealt with the consequences. She was working, and busy, and tired… and she didn’t believe it was her job to bail us out of those kinds of things. That right there, is the jumping off point. This idea: that we as parents are there to help our kids out (read bail them out in many instances) is an interesting topic amongst friends and I. What is too much? What is their stuff and what is ours? What do our kids learn from being held accountable? And when is being held accountable a difficult line to navigate… as parents and as kids? Where should the line be drawn?

My kids are 22, 20 and 15 now. The two exchange students we’ve had this entire school year are 16 and 17, and definitely figure into this topic. Almost as soon as they arrived here, I added them to my list of things I need to keep track of. They are not things of course, but their things. Their homework assignments, things they forget at home, or forget to do, or things they need taken care of, appointments they need to make, stuff they want or need. It all goes on that list. The list is very long. Talking to my friends, my list is longer than some and shorter than others, but I have yet to meet a parent without a list of other people’s things they keep track of.

Anyway, I was at the high school and stopped into the bathroom near the cafeteria. As I entered I heard loud chatter and laughing, kids fooling around. I wondered what was happening, as it was so loud and not lunch time. Glancing in, it was clearly a study session- one of several happening during testing this week. They were quite boisterous (There!  An old lady phrase, if I ever turned one), but there’s nothing odd about that. However, within a second of walking in and hearing the noise there was a huge crashing sound and the distinct sound of breaking glass… big glass. A cacophony of laughter, “woahs!” and other exclamations followed. I know too many kids at the school; I didn’t want to stick my head in there. I figured the laughter implied that no one was hurt, but continued on to the bathroom thinking that I should maybe call the office and suggest that an adult should be present. Instead, when I came back out and paused near the doors to see if all was ok, a teacher was pushing a large broom, cleaning up glass and mess. Again, I continued on because an adult present made it clear that I didn’t need to get involved.

However, as I walked away the image stuck in my head. What had been going on that would have gotten so out of hand that broken glass was the outcome and sweeping was necessary? And, how do things get that out of hand in a study period with a teacher present? Accidents happen of course, but the loud chatter and chaos that I heard just a beat before the very loud crash implies that there was more going on. The sound was distinctly out of control… and there is my point: Out of control, and what are the limits that have changed and allowed so much out of control?

On several occasions over the past few years my kids have reported situations at school that truly rattle me. Both of our exchange students have also noted that there is so much talking in class- while the teacher is talking or studying is going on- that they can barely focus. Little Man finds it nearly impossible to work in some of his classes, focus already a challenge for him. Cell phones are used, texting and even answering calls occasionally, and each of the kids has said that it is not uncommon for cell phones to ring, even though they ares suppose to be off during class. In a recent conversation with a few of the teachers, the ones in the conversation noted that parents have complained when they can’t reach their kids. Teachers feel stuck when it comes to cell phones, they’ve shared.  They also feel less able to assert control over their classes. Gone are the days when they can easily put things in order by asking a student to repeat aloud what they just whispered to a friend, or by reading a passed note to the class. That is invasion of privacy.

When we were in school, we certainly passed notes and whispered to our friends. However, we went to enormous lengths to not get caught. We kept it very quiet. We did not actively chat with friends, and those who did were labeled trouble and asked to sit in the hall. As the chatter box I have always been, I spent a few times in the hall for getting caught whispering a quick comment to a friend. It would not have occurred to me to blatantly talk out loud. Yet, over and over I hear from kids that their classes are often loud and disruptive. What are teachers suppose to do about this when some parents complain that their kids were embarrassed or treated badly, if teachers condemn this behavior publicly- Say, to the class they are disrupting? How frustrating it must be for teachers and administrators today when so much of their ability to run the business they are in, is thwarted by kids who don’t respect the rules and parents who support their disrespect.

Ok, hold it. I am very aware that this does not represent all kids or all parents in our school or in all other schools. There are still parents who raise their kids to be respectful in class and mindful of others who need to study. There are lots of parents who do not think that a cell phone is a limitless entitlement, but a privilege that should be used when it’s needed, not when it’s wanted. Limits. There are plenty of kids and parents who still understand what that means… But there are plenty who do not.

On too many occasions I have seen parents provide false alibis for kids who are caught at parties that had alcohol (forbidden in our school district and in many others), knowing full well that their kids were in fact guilty. Regardless of whether I agree with the policy (which I am very skeptical of), the rules are the rules. My mother would have dragged me to the office before she would ever come in and lie for me. Period. Punishments were firm and harsh and there was little concern for whether I might miss a dance, an important meet or something I wanted. If you were caught, you were punished. With some parents making sure their kids aren’t punished, while others allow their kids to face the natural consequences of their actions, the balance is entirely disrupted.  Kids who fess up are punished, while those who lie are not. It’s not fair to the kids who do the right thing and sit out, nor the kids who do the wrong thing and participate… or the administrators and teachers who have to wade through the crap that surrounds both sides.

I’ve heard all of the various sides, as my friends and other parents discuss the latest happening, or events. I’ve been ’round and ’round about why some kids get bailed out and other don’t and which is right. I get it: seeing a kid miss a State athletic event, or an important dance, or even graduation is a very big deal. But, shouldn’t that be weighed when kids are choosing to do things that they know are wrong? When they’re foolish enough to arrogantly post images on Facebook? When they admit their guilt to anyone they think will find it cool? Then, what are administrators and teachers suppose to do with that, when parents step up to provide false alibis? How do coaches look honest kids in the face and bench them, then cheer on kids they know cheated? Is it the rules that need to change or the attitude of a culture that feels we need to bail our kids out of so many things?

This is not something I’ve been spared. I can say that on this topic I can truly put my money where my mouth is. My kids have been held accountable. There has been no bailing for real offenses. I’m guilty of delivering far too many forgotten assignments, lunches, things that they could have lived without… or could have stayed after to make up, because they did not prepare for a given day. I’ve been guilty of cowing on occasion to kids who have behaved badly, to avoid more conflict. Overall however, I’ve stood my ground.  They have paid for damage to egged houses, and apologized face to face.  They have lost driving privileges for months, and been grounded for things that they should not have done.  And I feel lucky that none of the offenses saw us facing the decision regarding whether to bail them out of a much bigger thing. Would I have been so resolved if there had been a serious loss at stake? I’m grateful I wasn’t tested… that far. There was plenty of testing, and plenty of towing the line, by kids and parents in our home. It was not easy. But, I stand by my rant here. I believe that you face the consequences of your own actions, and you grow. Whatever age you are, whatever stage of life.

As I watched this teacher sweep the mess up today, his face was solemn and unhappy looking. He was not laughing. Yet kids were still laughing and being disruptive around him. Other kids had their heads down and their books open, and seemed to get the weight of whatever had just happened. However, I was most struck by that teacher’s expression. I don’t know the circumstances, what led to the loud crash and breaking glass. Maybe he thought that a little levity was in order. The end of the year is near and maybe he figured that some joking and fun was ok?  Or maybe he’d asked for quiet and had been ignored, until things got out of hand. I really don’t know. I just know that he was cleaning up the mess, and he didn’t look happy about it. The very fact that he was cleaning up the mess struck me. Why him? I had clearly seen kids up on the stage at the front of the room, when things crashed. I had not seen the teacher initially. So, who made the mess? Somehow I doubt it was that teacher.

And so it irked me. And I spent a portion of my day thinking about the whole thing, and the several things that have jumped up and irked me the same way lately, about how it is and how I think it should be… and the huge gulf between those two things, some days. This is how I see it, but feel free to fire back. I’m curious about where others stand on this topic. This is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s many layers to the issues and more than one friend has suggested I not write about it… but again, it’s my dime. It’s my rant.

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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40 Responses to Ten Miles in the Snow… Uphill… Both Ways…Barefoot.

  1. Brian says:

    I suppose the days of…going home after school, telling Mom that the teacher hit you, Mom asking you why the teacher hit you, you telling Mom why and then Mom hitting you again…are gone!

    I would not call this a rant, it’s reality…and there I will stop.

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    • Well, you know we see this similarly. I think your piece was making a familiar point, that I’ve ranted on before… but it is a topic that simmers in my head a lot. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Brian.

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  2. Lots to comment on. Bringing things to school- yes – seemed to get worse with each child, the most needy being the daughter. And we always lived near enough to walk to school. Lunches, homework, instruments, tennis equipment, you name it, I brought it.
    The glass breaking is very serious and you have every right to rant and really complain. That was dangerous — and its your taxes paying for the repair. It’s these “pranks” that get out of hand that turn into bullying, harassment, etc. Bring it to the school’s attention.
    Talking in class and cell phones– the cell phones are a losing battle. I think elementary kids get them now. I’ve read about how teachers are using smart phones/texting, etc as part of lessons but still it’s a huge distraction. Talking– the poor teachers– but they need to keep reinventing ways to keep kids attention. Long gone are the days a teacher can stand at the front of the room and command attention. Sorry to hear all this– hope it gets better for your last child as he finishes high school.

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    • I suppose my point isn’t really that about the difficulties all of this brings for my son, as he lives in this world and it does not rattle him the same way it rattles me. Each generation is bound to compare their stuff to the new generation’s. But, I do not feel the trend is positive. I find much of this frustrating and imagine it is a challenge for lots of kids and adults! Thanks Lisa… always love your insights. 🙂

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  3. aliciamklein says:

    Having worked at a high school (I lasted 7 months) I can tell you this: it begins and ends with the parents. Period. At some point in time, I’m not sure when, there was a pivotal shift when parents went from saying to their child “shame on you!” to looking at the teacher and saying “how dare you!” I saw it time, and time again.

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    • I agree. While I believe there are good parents struggling to counteract what happens in the many, many hours outside of school… there are too many that teach entitlement to their kids and leave schools with their hands tied. I have had the same experiences, several times over. Thanks Alicia! I appreciate you leaving a comment. 😉

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  4. Daryl Madill says:

    You’re right that many kids don’t seem to be held accountable for their actions at school these days. I’ve seen it too…
    I believe that no parent does their kid a favor by ‘bailing them out’. Little issues and no consequences can so often turn into big issues with damaging consequences. I’ve witnessed a couple of absolutely life-changing, terrible consequences for kids who didn’t have to face the music when they did something stupid, albeit not life-threatening, when they were younger.
    We have a responsibility as parents to guide our kids, and give them a moral framework from which to operate from. Not to say they won’t then make mistakes….everyone does. However, learning early on how to handle a difficult situation, to make amends and to take responsibility when a mistake happens, is critical to growing and learning how to be a responsible adult. It takes some courage to parent that way….I don’t always measure up. I do know a number of people that I consider ‘mentors’ though, and they remind me to look at the bigger picture, and what it means to raise a responsible, decent kid. Not just our schools, but our society needs our commitment as parents to this goal.

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    • Bravo! I couldn’t agree more. I should just tack on your response to the end of my post, and claim it as my own. 😉 I think many of us have seen some pretty dire outcomes and at least one that I know of did involve life-threatening consequences, for the kid and the person in his path. I chose to leave that out, but it comes to mind each and every time I question whether a consequence is in order. I understand that the issues are multi-layered, but I can’t help but feel like I see the wrong outcome too often… Like you, the mentors I know are the ones I hold on a very high pedestal, because I know how hard it really is. Thanks Daryl for your thoughtful response and for supporting my writing, over and over.

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  5. mamaheidi60 says:

    It’s obviously a pretty different time than when I was in school. And I think a different time even since my daughter was in school. Daughter attended school where I taught for first 6 years so she had access to me and my help during the day. But from middle school and into high school, both parents worked full time, so we weren’t free to just drop off any forgotten item. I don’t believe I ever went to school in the middle of the day, other than when she was ill and needed to leave. She didn’t have a cell phone until she got a driver’s license at 17. We didn’t have texting. We shared a car. I cannot think of any time I needed to call her during the day, ever! She called me a few times other than being ill. She used a pay phone or called from the office. One was during the Columbine shooting to tell me her teacher had the news on in the classroom and she wanted to leave because she found it so distressing and her teacher told her it was good to be informed. She left school without permission from the teacher (which I totally applauded). Other non-ill time for a call was during 9-11, again, teachers playing the news on the TV. That time I called the school and asked that they accommodate students who needed a break, which they immediately did – turning off TV’s and making space to talk. Seriously, I never took her anything during the day at school and cannot think of a single reason ever needing to contact her during the day. What do parents call students about? What can’t wait until 2:30? I don’t think students should be humiliated, but they should be held accountable. I have no answers for this at all this morning. I find it distressing. Seriously. I support you for writing about it. It’s one of those elephants in the room kind of things. Why didn’t friends want you to write about it? It has to be talked about! Respect between students and between teachers and students. Support from parents. Is it the same in all three high schools? To be continued I guess. I need to get ready for school.

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    • You, Heidi, are one of the aforementioned mentors (noted in previous comments) who I truly admire and look to for guidance. As a parent, teacher and administrator, you certainly have your finger on the pulse! I have struggled with the dropping things off issue through all three kids. I am guilty of doing it over and over, even after threatening not to! Arrgh. I continue, even as I know I am enabling a behavior I find very problematic. That said, that is the not the worst thing in the world. My daughter did not have a cell until Jr. year of high school and never had it on in school. My middle son, the same. Our youngest got one earlier, but NEVER has it on. When I need to get a message to him (very rare) I go through the office. Works like a charm. I do not text the kids during school unless I need some essential info (will they be staying after? Do I need to pick them up later?), and then I text during lunch, or before classes begins. It is all a very slipper slope and I think it generally slides downhill. Accountability is in short supply these days and it drives me nuts. As for the Columbine and 9/11 references, we had the same horrified reaction, when teachers had TVs going all day, and our kids came home traumatized! Informed yes, saturated no. As for friends who advised not to post… they are looking out for me. I have spoken up about issues for ages, but it often gets me on the short end of social groups and viewed as a pot stirrer. Some of the parents that I like personally, also have contributed to the issues mentioned, and I think there are friends who see no good in shining a spotlight. I told them that I write about what I’m needing to say… Thank you so much for joining the conversation and always checking out my posts! 🙂

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  6. jch1006 says:

    I too have made my share of ‘deliveries’ to the school this year!! I completely agree with your blog! Luckily I have students who ‘talk’ with their parents about their day and it’s shocking what goes on in the high school classroom but I truly believe that most parents have no idea. Also, I believe it starts at the top! If teachers are not supported by the Principal when they try to ‘correct’ bad behavior then ‘correction’ stops! Teachers sadly loose control & students become disrespectful & teachers have no where to turn for support/recourse! Change the Principal to one with a backbone & give teachers the needed support and see what happens!! I think some parents would be shocked…..

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    • I agree and disagree here. My personal experience has been that I’ve seen our Principal hold kids accountable and then have seen parents come in and LIE to provide an out for their kids. I have seen at least one parent bring in an attorney, to make sure their kid did not have to pay a serious consequence for serious behavior. The Principal, like the teachers, has their hands tied tight… perhaps more so than the teachers on some issues. I also believe that more parents hear about these things but turn a blinds eye. In my experience, too often parents say they want to know if their child contributes to the problem, but when they hear that they are, they refuse to believe it. “Hey Joey, did you drink at this party? Did you cheat on the test? etc” No Mom, that teacher/principal/substitute/other student is out to get me. They just made that up. “Oh, ok Joey, I’m so glad you’re the great kid I raised.” Sorry, but I’ve seen it over and over and over… And while I have always told my kids: You are guilty until proven otherwise (if I am told something), I am sure there were times I missed something and slept better because my kid was in the clear. It’s a tough road and I believe it’s tough on all involved: parents, kids, teachers and administrators. I think most parents would only be shocked because they choose to keep their heads in the sand… and in some cases enable the very behaviors we’re discussing. It is very complicated, but I love the discussion! Thanks for contributing jch. 😉

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  7. Kelly Sygitowicz says:

    This is a good, no great post! My kids are still in elementary school, with the oldest joining the ranks of middle school next year. My personal hot buttons, where my kids are concerned, are being kind to others, accountability and making the best of adverse situations, thus building character. As they grow, and face the situations that you have dicussed in this post, I simply hope that I have the strength and conviction to make the best possible decisions, ones that will help them learn and grow into responsible and caring adults. Thank you for your insight!

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    • Kelly, thanks for your feedback. It’s hard to see all of this when your kids are still in elementary, though it certainly shifts around 4-5th grade. It amps up in Middle School and by high school parents are virtually pushed out the doors and things get a bit gnarly. I have remained pretty involved with my kids and their teachers, but it’s not lost on me that my input is not terribly appreciated. I like the teachers, and appreciate their challenges… I also regret that things are difficult for my own kid, in part because things are challenging in the classroom. When your child has attention issues, the chaos is much harder to work around. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and share your thoughts. 😉

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  8. pinkagendist says:

    Told ya so… way more responses when it’s this sort of writing 😉

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  9. Hi Dawn,
    Thanks for this post. After 25+ years in education, I could not have said it better. I have tried to keep my children accountable. I do not bring them things like homework and uniforms, but I do sign their logs or late permission slips if they bring them to my office (I am not heartless). They know I can’t leave the building during the day. One great bonus has been the responsibility they take for making sure they are ready for the day. I never have to ask about homework anymore and they routinely make my breakfast so we can get out the door earlier (longer morning recess!) If I were home I would definitely bring them things and I always greet my frequent flyer parents with a smile! The difficulty I have is just what you speak of, children not being held accountable for their own behavior. I have had more than one parent threaten to sue for discipline issues and post on facebook how terrible the school is treating their poor child. Of course, we are not at liberty to respond as they are protected by Federal Education Records Privacy Act (FERPA). I have signs up all over the school that say, “You have a problem? Face it, don’t facebook it!” But tonight I spent quality time online browsing student and parent facebook accounts due to a report that there was a plot by the students to make their teacher’s last day a “nightmare”. Nice Huh?!?! What lovely people we are going to be putting out into the world. This is a discussion that needs to be had, by people like you. You are not alone. Parents Raising Responsible Kids Unite!

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    • Kim, thanks so much for joining the discussion. Your feedback means a lot to me! As an educator and Principal, you know better than most of us just how complex this can be. I think there are enough fingers to point, at kids, parents and teacher/administrators. There are certainly teachers and adm. who don’t help the situation, just as there are lots of parents who enable their kids and are at the heart of this topic. I love your posters, Face it, don’t Facebook it! That should be all over our school, and out there to the kids. Thanks Kim.

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  10. Maryanne says:

    I’d been really bugged by the use of phones in class (we had moved from a school district in another state that had very strict rules re bringing games/phones etc. to school) and applauded you 4 or 5 years ago when you raised the issue in a “Meet the Principal” meeting. The biggest push back was from some parents who said they had to have a way of reaching their kids during the day. Huh? I was shocked.
    It seems there are lots of lessons here, starting with who cleans up your mess? It really starts at home, but I think can be reinforced at the school. Isn’t it in Japan that kids participate in cleaning the school and making the school lunch, starting in elementary school? It’s a start. A teacher there would not have swept up the broken glass.
    It is sometimes easier to jump in and fix things for kids (sweeping the floor, dropping stuff off etc.). Those are relatively small things, but as you point out, there are bigger issues that get handled the same way (parents covering up for their kids or sweeping the problem under the proverbial rug).
    Agree totally with Daryl’s comments. I know I’ve dropped the ball on several things as a parent, and would do many things differently if given a chance for a do-over, but E had to face the consequences of his “escapade” with no interference from me.
    Great post and good discussion!

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    • Thanks Maryanne… thoughtful observations. I almost mentioned that meet the Principal night; it was a huge shock to us too! I thought others would yell “here, here!” and suddenly Smart Guy whispered “We may need to make a run, I think they may stone you.” So many parents yelling out their dissent and then seconding that one woman’s complaint that she might need to reach her daughter. Feh! Ugh! I have never needed to reach my kids badly enough to call them during class. It has worked fine for years to leave messages at the office if necessary, and that has been rare. That was when I first really realized that my views were not what everyone else felt. As for E’s escapade, it was hilarious and back in the day was done to a greater extreme, with little consequence. Big deal now, when other things are excused… Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  11. You are a good parent. There are many parents who practically become either invisible during high school or become completely defensive and blame the teachers/administrators and the school for everything. For example, I had only three parents show up to conferences and their children were all getting top grades in my classes. I called some of the parents of students who were balancing on the edge of failing. One told me I wasn’t doing my job, one yelled at me not to call again and one said they just didn’t care. If I was the teacher in the scenerio you described, those kids would have been directly sent to the office. Sadly, with the cutting of teachers and support staff, many times sending kids to the office is an exersize in futility. I try to keep my kids, my own and my students, accountable. Some days it is really hard to do this, but I keep going and try to teach some nuggets of personal responsibility.

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    • Thanks Jean, but I am a reasonably good parent. I fall short, and have fallen short in too many areas to count. I’m often pedaling fast, to make up or catch up. That said, I know I’m not a bad parent and I do my best. My kids are pretty good kids, who have each had their “moments.” I do feel that it’s hard in high school. In defense of some parents, I find that beginning in Middle School parents seem less and less welcome in the schools. We’re encouraged to join the PTSA and fund things, provide parties, etc… but our input and involvement is limited. I am met with stony indifference sometimes by some teachers and administrators, as I try to advocate for my child (who needs much support)… while others are very encouraging and willing to work with me/us. I have said many times, that if I wasn’t educated and confident it would be MUCH harder navigating the system… I imagine it’s very intimidating to many parents. I also know that what you have encountered is not uncommon, as I’ve heard it from others! Thanks for reading and sharing Jean! 😉

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  12. Valery says:

    Wow. Great post, great comments. I’m like Kim: 25+ years in education, private school (infant through 8th grade). You have indeed just touched the tip of the iceberg, and Alica is so right about the role of parents. This is such a deeply complicated & multi-faceted issue, I have to censor myself here (too personal, too emotional). A few points, though: Entitlement. Enablement. Both are swear words in my book. Need for Instant Gratification (thanks to the Digital Age). Fear of Lawsuit-Mania (thanks, age of Lusty Lawyers). R-E-S-P-E-C-T, it’s not what it used to be (becoming extinct in many parts of our culture). Under-staffed and under-appreciated (not just for public schools anymore). GREED: we want (need) more stuff, so we parents need to work more = less time for parenting = kids with less guidance. GUILT: rampant in split-parent families (I don’t want to be the Mean Parent). Oops, I think my rant is showing! But you knew I would not be capable of resisting this one… now let’s see if I can handle a reply to the dog post. Cry. Much!

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    • I KNEW you’d have something to say Valery! And I knew it would be thoughtful and to the point. Yes, like Kim you too have been in this arena for a very long time and have much to add the conversation. All of these points are fantastic and pretty much on par with what I think too. Love having your voice in the mix! Regarding the dogs, I still remember when you guys lost Tippy(?), and how you kept the collar on your bedroom door. I know you’re a dog person. 😉

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  13. wombar49 says:

    I’m not presently a parent with kids in school, but

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  14. I am now a grandparent, not a parent, but when I was a parent with a kid in high school I was not sure who to strangle first. I ended up bringing a federal action against one school district for violation of my child’s civil and human rights in order to get them to simply install an automatic door opener for a kid in a wheelchair (and then keep it in working order).

    When kids bullied her the principal told me it was her fault for being in a wheelchair which brought another visit from the lawyer from Protection and Advocacy for the Developmentally Disabled. I met with teachers who hated me (they were duds) and teachers who loved me (they were my heros because they were true teachers) and I got to know the school security guards and state troopers quite well because I was ‘done’ putting up with BS.

    I took on a school custodian who started screaming in my kid’s face (in front of me) to slow down when students were loping past her as she motored in her wheelchair. I did not back down and it was a loud enough confrontation that the internal police came along and told the custodian to back off.

    If my kid had been a problem I’d have done a tap dance on her head – and I did from time to time. She was almost always on the Dean’s List. However when teachers who knew she had a bladder infection refused to let her use the bathroom then I considered THEM to be the problem. They had choices, though, we could be allies or I could be the worst enemy they ever had, until they gave up and complied at which point we became allies. I found HS administration to be like the Keystone Kops and when the Superintendent of Schools came in and got caught in rank lies during a Federal Civil Rights investigation it showed me what the good teachers had to deal with. My daughter graduated a bitter and angry kid. It is one of the (many) reasons I later became a lawyer.

    During the entire time of my confrontation with the school I coordinated paper drives to fund classroom needs and often spent Saturday making collections of used newspapers in my old IH Scout to take to the recycling center in order to get supplies for classrooms. When my daughter graduated I was thanked for raising awareness in the school – it was probably the only time I let the administrator have it right between the eyes – she was not welcome. No kid needed to go through what mine went through to educate that woman to stop blaming disabled kids for their disabilities.

    My granddaughter has been battered twice in school. Once in Middle School – a girl the size of Texas smacked my granddaughter over the head with a chair. I was the lawyer who called the principal of the school and we had our own smack-down when I found out he was unwilling to separate the violent girl with the bad attitude from the kid a fraction of her size who was a good student. We had to do this several times before he got the message that these kids would be separated for the entire year or we’d be doing the Courthouse Cha-cha. I did not care how he did it or how offended the parents of the other student were. I was willing to go after them too, if I had to – tort law being what it is.

    The second event was violent enough that the police had to be involved and that ended that affair since the parents got the word that if there was one more hint of an incident their kid was going to jail. However, I’ve got to say that the schools, little schools in little towns (in both cases for the grandkiddie) were remarkably witless when it came to administrators. My impression of administrators is that when they reach that level their brains run out their ears and are lost forever. Does not matter the state or the size of the school or town. It is like a brain amoeba attacks.

    My granddaughter is an honor roll student, she takes after her Mom in that regard. My daughter would skin her kid alive for bad behavior. It isn’t tolerated.

    Yes, things begin and end with the parents – in large part – but things also begin and end with effective school administration. Yanno, my grandkids can’t wear off the shoulder blouses in school and there are lots of other do’s and don’ts that apply. I hear them grumbling, but they comply. So the lesson here seems to be: If parents want effective schools – get on board with the PTA, get known with the school administrators and teachers, and push. If something is screwed up then address it before it becomes worse. If the administrator will not respond there are educational law lawyers who specialize in fixing school problems. I’m not one of them – I only advocate for my family. Teachers are delighted to have parents who will ally with them and help them in their goals of teaching kids. Really. I have retired teachers in my family. I’m pro teacher – just anti sucky teachers.

    I’ve taken on – nose to nose – the obnoxious parents of bullies and I’ve made their lives so uncomfortable that things changed. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

    Not that I have an opinion or anything…

    Sorry for being long-winded… sort of.

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    • You’ve certainly had a lot to deal with anotherboomer, so no doubt that makes for a lot to say/contribute! I think your situation is unique in many ways, but we all can certainly learn from the idea of getting involved and having a voice. Our school has a lot of strong parents and a good PTSA, but some things continue because there are equally vocal parents who represent other opinions. When I stood up about cell phones, in a packed auditorium (fully believing that others would support me), I was practically boo’ed down. (See Maryann’s comment). It was amazing! It started with grumbling, then one woman stood up and argued that she “NEEDS to be able to reach her daughter” and voice after voice joined in. I felt crazy, frankly… totally unaware that my criticism of cell phones in classrooms would be so widely unpopular. Like individual classes, parent groups have different personalities and tendencies as well, I’ve found. There are years where passionate parents work hard to bring important change and there are years where there is lots of enabling. I believe the trend is the latter. If you read the comments from Kim, Valery and Heidi, they are all administrators and educators who work hard to see good schools be a safe place for learning, for all kids. It is shocking what happened to your daughter, and perhaps reflective of a different time? I can’t imagine that particular situation being tolerated in our school district, or those that the 3 women I mention are in. I do however remember how incredibly mindless the laws were just 20 yrs ago, for those with disabilities. Living in a large city at the time, I was perpetually shocked by the lack of compassion and simple dignity afforded those in wheelchairs, or with other needs. So, I hear you on that! As for your granddaughter, bullies do in fact exist in every school, public or private. My own daughter was bullied, and I agree that the schools were not as supportive as I would have expected. As I’ve noted throughout this “dialogue,” this is a very complex issue! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post, and share your extensive experiences and thoughts. Opinions are good! 😉

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  15. I met a good school superintendent – once. I’ve met a few good administrators. I’ve met many good teachers. I’ve met more than my share of whack jobs in the schools, even as recently as when my eldest granddaughter was in grade school. It is a complex issue. No doubt. However, as the big mouth in the room – most of the time – I don’t often back down. I don’t back down from parents who have convinced themselves they need instant access because they have no concept it didn’t exist before. I don’t back down from much of anything. I have found that being the immovable object sometimes interchanging with the irresistible force is a good method for me. If I refuse to go away someone has to deal with me sooner or later. I take on problem parents too until they finally give up. I can be like a dog with a bone.

    I go to school board meetings. I learn who the school board members are. I petition them on topics. I call them at home. I write letters (certified, registered, return receipts – with copies to a file). I am the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I ask for the legal and doable. When provided I support the teacher/administrator – even against other parents. Being implacable means most others wear out and go away. (shrug) Controlling? Maybe. I’m an ACoA. I know how to be controlling. I know that I can generally out-wait out-maneuver, and out-stubborn almost anyone else in the world. Just like in some areas of law, how much are you willing to give me to get rid of me? And what I’m given by schools makes things better for students. Once that issue is fixed then if I’m still on a rampage it is on to the next one. I’m not anti-school, I’m pro-school. I’m anti-schmuck, anti-bully, anti-disruption in the classroom.

    Boo’d down? Kewl. I’d never assume everyone would think I”m right, I’d assume they’d think I’m wrong (seems to happen a lot) and I’d plan to bring reinforcements, facts, and figures. 🙂 But that is just me. I can be a steam roller if I have to. I play well with others, but if there is no other way to achieve the goal and the goal is important I will rent the steam roller and off I go. :^)

    Anyway, I’ll wander off now. 😉

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    • I will not get in your way! 😉 I’m sure this all makes you the right person to have on the team, when things need to get done! It’s hard to stick to things even when you’re not supported, or you feel it’s a struggle. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to the mix Anotherboomer. As for East vs West, from the comments here… seems to be much of the same thing on either shore.

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  16. BTW, is it an difference between easterners and westerners? I admit when I came to Massachusetts I was appalled by the state of the schools and the parental entitlement, not to mention the corruption.

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  17. Rita Russell says:

    This is SUCH a pet peeve of mine – and by the way, it’s not just a problem in public schools, but also in some private schools. In fact, because NO rules were enforced at the West Van private school my kids attended, we pulled them out when they were in grade 9 and 11. We were so concerned with the schools (and parents) in our community that we sent them both to a boarding school on Vancouver Island. That school that had real rules, real discipline, and real consequences. It was tough for all of us, but worth every penny.

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    • Following your blog Rita, I thought The Weird One went to school in Vancouver? Isn’t she at home? That aside, yes, I do know that it isn’t just about public schools, that is just where my son is and what I was addressing in this particular post. These issues reach all areas of society and all schools… complicated and multi-dimensional for sure! Thanks for taking the time to join the discussion! 🙂

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      • Rita Russell says:

        My daughter goes to public school in West Van now for grade 11 but spent grades 9 &10 at boarding school on the Island. Similarly my son went to boarding school on the island for grade 11, broke a few rules, got in trouble and was kicked out – then he went to the boys boarding school in Vancouver for the last part of grade 11 plus all of grade 12. His expulsion was the best thing that ever happened to him – even he admits that.Talk about consequences!

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  18. The teacher was sweeping up the glass? What tha?

    Not looking forward to the age of, “Can I have a cell phone?” So far, we’re not there yet, but I have seen that some of the kids in my son’s elementary school have cell phones. (Ridiculous in my opinion). All electronics are turned in at the office when the kids get to school, and they are returned as the kids leave. Firm policy.

    Just yesterday, my son left a homework sheet on the kitchen table. I saw it when I got home from taking him to school. My initial impulse was to run it over (a 2 minute drive); but then I thought about how he needs to learn to be responsible for packing his things into his backpack (he’s ending 3rd grade), and I left it. When Little Man got home, I asked him how he handled it. He said he grabbed a blank sheet and quickly re-did the work and passed it in.

    Feel free to rant any time. It’s your blog!

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    • It’s absolutely amazing to me that elementary school kids would have cell phones, but I’ve heard this from others as well! And if they turn them in (a policy that sounds good to me), then what’s the point in buying them in the first place? Oy. The times they are a changing, but I definitely don’t like the direction we’re traveling! Thanks for the feedback Mariner. 🙂

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